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Beringer to Rename Napa Ridge Brand

September 13, 1990|DAN BERGER | TIMES WINE WRITER

The name of Beringer Vineyards' successful "Pop-Premium" brand, Napa Ridge, may soon be changed to Coastal Ridge.

Michael Moone, president of Beringer, said the Coastal Ridge name will be test-marketed in Colorado, Arizona and Georgia in early 1991, and if the test is favorably received, the brand will be changed nationwide. Moreover, the name of the wine already has begun transition in that direction, he said.

"Our first tests with the name in focus groups was very positive," said Moone, "so we're already phasing it in." Bottles of the current releases of Napa Ridge wines now have the name as "Coastal Napa Ridge," with the word "Coastal" in script type. If the test proves successful, the word Napa will be dropped.

Moone said the Coastal Ridge name "tested with consumers better than Napa Ridge--they thought it was more indicative of a high-quality wine."

The Napa Ridge brand recently has created some headaches for Wine World, Beringer's parent company, though at the beginning, he said, the name was logical. "When we started out with Napa Ridge, we were using Napa wines. It was a time when there was a surplus of Napa wines, and we were a Napa product," said Moone. "But as the brand grew and the supply of Napa wine shrunk, we began to use more and more grapes from other coastal regions, and we became a non-Napa wine."

He said the wine in the bottle soon wasn't a product of the Napa Valley, so he felt the name inappropriate.

Moreover, federal law says wines that carry in their brand names the name of a regional appellation (in this case it was Napa) cannot blend grapes from other regions as flexibly as if a broad appellation such as California were used. This meant that making Napa Ridge wines was logistically more difficult. Also, the rules made it more difficult to make consistently styled wines.

Changing to an appellation that doesn't hamstring the wine maker will permit more blending and thus make for more consistent wines, Moone said. Moone said the testing would run through 1991.

The Napa Ridge line is the nation's sixth largest Pop-Premium brand after Sutter Home, Glen Ellen, Gallo, Sebastiani, Mondavi and Fetzer. Under the Napa Ridge name, Beringer produces about 750,000 cases of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Zinfandel and non-varietal red and white table wine.

Moone said the Napa Ridge brand is growing rapidly, but he said Wine World's other low-priced brand, Los Hermanos, is down to 200,000 cases as the winery phases it out.

The Robert Mondavi brand is the top-listed brand in Newport Beach restaurants, but Kendall-Jackson is fast moving up to challenge, according to Scorecard, a monthly publication that analyzes trends in Southern California's retail and restaurant wine sales.

In a survey of 58 restaurants, Scorecard found 152 brands of Chardonnay, with Kendall-Jackson the leader, listed by 41 of the 58 restaurants. Chateau St. Jean had 36 placements and Robert Mondavi 31. Raymond had 28 followed by Far Niente (25) and Callaway (24). Mondavi was the out-front leader in Cabernet listings, with 46 to Beaulieu's 32 and 22 for Jordan.

Cumulatively for the two most popular varieties, Mondavi had 77 placements with Kendall-Jackson at 48.

Overall, Mondavi brands (including Vichon and Opus One) accounted for 12% of the American wine listings of Chardonnay and Cabernet, the publication said. Moreover, Mondavi Fume Blanc led in Sauvignon Blanc listings with 32 and also was the leader in Pinot Noir placements.

Gary Eberle, owner and wine maker of Eberle Winery in Paso Robles, and Joe Carrari, a grape grower in Los Alamos Valley, have been presented with awards from the Central Coast Winegrowers Assn. Eberle was named Wine Maker of the Year and Carrari Wine Grower of the Year. Birtice Card of Hampton Farms, who helped establish the Central Coast wine-growing region and the Los Padres Grower Foundation, was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

A group of wine makers and grape growers on California's Central Coast is supporting a proposal for an appellation to be called Santa Barbara Coast, an area encompassing most of Santa Barbara County as well as a portion of southern San Luis Obispo County.

At an informal meeting held at Brander Winery in Santa Ynez Valley, about a dozen of 18 wineries attending the late-August meeting said they favored the appellation, which comprises about 8,000 acres of vineyard land, including 6,000 in Santa Barbara County.

Two San Joaquin Valley men have been indicted for conspiring to obtain higher prices for cheaper grape varieties by misrepresenting them as expensive varieties.

The indictments stem from a grape-pricing scandal following the 1988 harvest in California, according to federal government charges.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said that brothers Frank and Nick Bavaro were charged with misrepresenting 6,500 tons of wine grapes, representing more than 1 million gallons of wine valued at more than $20 million.

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